Jacques Villeneuve has signed to drive in the new FIA World Rallycross Championship in an Albatec Racing-prepared Peugeot 208, which boasts 600hp. The 42-year-old French-Canadian has committed to a full season with the Dumfries-based squad, which has experience of fielding ‘big name’ drivers after running FIA World Rally Championship star Kris Meeke at Lohéac in France last year and testing erstwhile Ferrari ace Mika Salo in a private session in Finland.
“The news that Jacques Villeneuve is joining the FIA World Rallycross Championship for its inaugural season is a tremendous coup,” said Martin Anayi, the MD of FIA World RX. “It is massively exciting for everybody involved in the Championship and for all of our fans. It will be great to see World Champions from different disciplines battling it out in FIA World RX. As a former F1 World Champion, Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Champion, Jacques is a true motorsport legend, and his on-track achievements and off-track personality have earned him cult status all around the world.”
Villeneuve has experience in ice racing, which should stand him in good stead
“We had a very successful test in France,” he said. “I was very impressed with the quality of the team, particularly on the engineering side – it reminded me of my time in F1. The car is just so responsive, the power is amazing and with 600bhp to play with, who wouldn’t be excited?”
One of the primary reasons for recruiting Villeneuve is to help boost the FIA series in the Americas where there will be a round of the championship at Trois-Rivières in Québec on August 7/8. The key problem over there is the Global Rallycross Championship (GRC), a rival series which has grown out of the X Games. The GRC is not global at all, its only event outside the US being the season-opener in Barbados, with the other events taking place in Austin, Washington DC, New York City, Charlotte, Detroit, Daytona, Los Angeles, Seattle and Las Vegas. However, the series has some serious firepower with Andretti Autosport recently announcing plans to run a pair of factory-backed turbocharged, direct-injected 560hp 4WD GRC Volkswagen Beetles in the series, one for four-time X Games winner Tanner Foust, a former stuntman who rose to prominence through drifting and then the X Games, and Scott Speed, the former F1 driver , who has been trying to break into NASCAR in recent years. Foust will be sponsored by Rockstar energy drink, while Speed will be funded by 7Up.
Both championships aim to attract the next generation of motorsport fans. Rallycross appeals to a younger demographic thanks to its shorter action-packed events and the trend is to hold these in stadiums close to large cities.